Concord Lincoln dealership closing after 23 years

Last modified: 11/16/2013 12:13:01 AM
After 23 years in business, Concord’s sole Lincoln dealership, Lincoln of Concord, has closed.

The business shuttered its doors for the last time yesterday about 6 p.m.

“That we’ve been able to be a standalone small dealership for so long has to do with our customers and the community,” said sales manager Candace Fitzgerald. “And for that we are forever grateful.”

Fitzgerald attributed the closure to sluggish sales and the fact that the business didn’t carry other cheaper brands, which could have helped draw potential Lincoln customers to the lot, at 158 Manchester St. Ford Motor Co., which owns the Lincoln brand, has been closing standalone Lincoln dealerships for years, but Fitzgerald said the Concord dealership was able to weather much of that storm. In the end, she said, it was an opportunity to lease the lot to a neighboring Kia dealer that pushed owner Denise Crowley to take action.

Nearly all of the company’s roughly two-dozen employees have found new jobs, Fitzgerald said. Crowley has opted to retire.

Fitzgerald, who worked at the dealership for 17 years, described her co-workers as “tight-knit, like a family.” And the same went for the customers, she said.

Ford, which narrowly avoided bankruptcy seven years ago, has been posting improved sales figures recently, distributing 13.9 percent more vehicles in October than the same month a year ago. Total sales have surged 12.2 percent this year through October, according to the research firm Autodata.

But Lincoln has not kept pace. Sales of the brand fell 3 percent this year through October. Ford sold 20,901 Lincoln MKZ midsize sedans in the same period, just two more than it did in that duration a year earlier.

Lincoln sales have been cascading for years, the product, analysts say, of lackluster designs, poor marketing and an inability to outdo competitors. Two decades ago, about the same time Lincoln of Concord opened, the brand was considered a leading luxury vehicle. Its reign peaked in 1990 with 231,660 deliveries. This year, by comparison, Ford sold just 66,983 through October. Lincoln accounts today for about 3 percent of the company’s total sales, down from 8 percent in its heyday.

Lincoln’s decline mounted after 2000 as Ford purchased other luxury brands, including Jaguar, and customers turned increasingly to foreign competitors, such as Lexus and Mercedes-Benz.

But amid the recession, Ford circled back, shedding its other luxury brands and refocusing its attention – and funds – on Lincoln.

In its latest effort to revive the brand, the company last year unveiled what was pitched as a game-changing overhaul, debuting the first of four new models and launching advertisements and incentive programs to lure potential buyers – particularly of the younger generation – to them.

Next year, the company plans to roll out a new utility vehicle, the MKC, which will house the brand’s first Lincoln-exclusive engine, as well as a number of plush add-ons such as approach-detecting headlamps and LED-projected “welcome mats.” The changes are meant to silence critics who have argued that Lincoln vehicles are little more than dolled-up versions of their cheaper Ford counterparts.

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

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